11 July, 2007

Viral Video?

Yesterday I came across a video at Break.com, a favorite site of mine for watching foreign commercials, funny videos, and guys ages 10-30 hurting themselves. Thanks to Break, I firmly believe skateboarding is the most dangerous sport in the world.

But in this video, “Dog Goes Crazy After Drinking Slurpee,” a dog drinks a Slurpee, shows its blue tongue, walks backwards, then jumps through a wooden fence, causing the fence to collapse. Something looked fishy. Not only can most dogs not walk backwards, but even fewer can leap three feet in the air and propel themselves through a fence. Also, it reminded me of the Toyota Tundra commercials where the Tundra is in the background, and the focus is on the people in the foreground. Then the Tundra is pushed off a cliff or is struck by a meteor and survives. Yay Tundra! What begins as a mildly interesting commercial ends with a big bang.

So I went back and watched the video again. They say “Slurpee” at the very beginning. The Slurpee logo is prominently displayed on the side of one cup for 3-4 seconds. And the cups are an easily visible pink or purple. The only colors that bright in the video are the blue Slurpee in the dog bowl and the dog’s blue tongue.

Then I searched YouTube and, sure enough, found the same video titled, “Watch the Mental Dog!” However, this video had a tag at the end for a contest run by, http://www.slurpee.com.au/, Australia’s Slurpee website. Aha!

Viewers of both videos noted the video was funny, that is was cruel to give the dog so much sugar or that the video was obviously an ad. So I typed the words “slurpee” and “dog” into the youtube search engine and came up with a few similar hits of different dogs drinking Slurpees, always with the Slurpee logo prominently displayed.

If makers of the video hadn’t gone through so much trouble to force in the Slurpee image or to make the outcome of the video so over-the-top, I probably would have been fooled. Of course, “Dog Drinking Slurpee” isn’t nearly as interesting as “Insane Slurpee Dog Jumps Through Fence.” I should also note the description for the original YouTube video didn’t state the dog jumped through the fence. That’s the surprise. That video, posted in November, had nearly 7,000 hits. The Break video, on the other hand, did note that the dog jumped through the fence, so I clicked.

The best viral videos are subtle, not intrusive, so viewers can’t sniff out the advertisement. When you can get a viewer interested in a product, but keep them from realizing they’re being advertised to, 1) you get around the cynicism some people have towards advertising—the “I’m not gonna buy that just because you want me to” attitude, and 2) the customer now thinks they know more than the other guy, and wants to be able to say they were one of the first to get in on the next big thing that the not-so-smart consumer didn’t see.

Subtle product placement or product imbedding also does this very effectively—an athlete drinking a hip new beverage on the sideline, a celebrity flaunting this year’s hot new item while “hanging out” at some media-rich event, or a Red Bull refrigerator in the liquor store on an episode of 24. Jack Bauer must be tired. It’s almost 10 PM. I’m tired too.

Look in the background, see what advertisements you might be missing. But makers of this video were a little too by-the-advertising-book, and thus were easier to catch, by me and by many advertising-savvy Web surfers. So good try, Slurpee, but we figured you out. Looks like Slurpee lost this one.

Or did they? As of yesterday, the Break video, posted this Sunday, had almost 400,000 hits. Oh, one more note. Today is July, 11—7-11. Hm. We figured you out, Slurpee, but not before you got your advertising message out to nearly half a million people. Slurpee, you win this round.

-Captain Awesome, Project Specialist

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